New Police Spying Documents Obtained in FOIA Lawsuit
On February 26, 2016, we filed a lawsuit in Superior Court to demand greater transparency regarding the Delaware State Police's use of surveillance technology.
Over a year later, we have finally obtained many of the documents we had been seeking from the beginning of the suit: examples of the warrant applications that are used to seek judicial approval to use these devices, as well as an additional document from the purchase process--a non-disclosure agreement between the State Police and the corporation that manufactures these devices. We resolved the suit with the State Police after receiving these documents.
The warrant applications represent a reasonably transparent approach to seeking court authority to use Stingrays. Police officers applied for judicial warrants, clearly explained the technology to the judges involved, and promised to delete third-party data that was gathered. The procedures and disclosures reflected in these documents should be put into binding law to ensure that these selected examples reflect how the technology is used in all cases.
Troublingly, the additional non-disclosure agreement does not reflect the same commitment to transparency and the rule of law. The agreement between the State Police and Harris Corporation purports to prevent the police from discussing these devices even with “elected officials.” This kind of secrecy is not necessary to ensure that the devices can be used successfully. But it does prevent democratic oversight over police spying technology and the money necessary to procure it.